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79 kidnapped Cameroon students freed, says church official

79 kidnapped Cameroon students freed, says church official

All 78 children and a driver kidnapped in west Cameroon were released on Wednesday, but a principal and one teacher are still being held by the armed men that took them, a priest conducting negotiations said.

No fewer than 79 students were reportedly abducted on Monday morning with their teacher, the principal and a driver.

The kidnappings were the first such mass abductions seen in Cameroon and coincide with an upsurge of political tensions in the majority French-speaking country.

The students, aged between 11 and 17, were brought to a church near the regional capital of Bamenda, said Fonki Samuel Forba, moderator of the country's Presbyterian Church.

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The AP said the video shows the kidnappers forcing several boys to say their names and the names of their parents.

"That 79 of our children and three of their staff can be picked up by terrorists", Tchoffo said.

The students were abducted Sunday night in part of Cameroon that is beset by violence and instability by armed separatists who want to create a breakaway state called Ambazonia. One other girl managed to escape from the kidnappers.

"The first information we got from them [kidnappers] is their call and they were telling us they meant to release the children yesterday [Tuesday] morning. but unfortunately it rained so heavily that could not happen". In August the agro-industry said that more than 6,000 of its 20,000 workers had fled sporadic attacks, killings and kidnappings from armed separatists seeking an independent English-speaking state.

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Although the video has yet to be independently verified, parents of the kidnapped schoolchildren have been taking to social media and claiming that they are able to clearly identify them in the footage. "You will be going to school now here", the men say, according to the news service.

Around a fifth of Cameroon's 22 million people are English-speaking - a minority whose presence dates back to the colonial period.

The conflict between the insurgents and government security forces intensified previous year after a government crackdown on peaceful protesters.

The turmoil in Cameroon comes as President Paul Biya, who has held his office since 1982, easily won a seventh term last month in an election that the United States says was marked by irregularities.

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"In memory of American missionary Charles Wesco and all others who have lost their lives in the Anglophone Crisis, we urge all sides to end the violence and enter into broad-based reconciliatory dialogue without preconditions", the USA state department said.